Let’s face it — the manual transmission is on life support, and its relatives have flown in from Atlanta and Houston to crowd around the hospital bed.
Stick shift aficionados can dream all they like about an 11th hour renaissance of the three-pedal setup, but transmissions aren’t vinyl LPs. One day in the near future — no doubt a dystopian landscape where dessert speakeasies doll out sucrose to sugar-taxed denizens of a Bark M.-imagined superstate — we’ll talk of the manual in the same manner as the front bench seat. Hell, rumble seats, for that matter.
Drivers of manual transmission vehicles already find themselves in a shockingly small minority, castaways on an island of technological obsolescence. Edmunds estimates the stick shift take rate at less than 3 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. It’s no wonder, either. Dual-clutch transmissions offer lightning-quick shifting, while continuously variable transmissions boast smoothness and enviable fuel economy gains. Eight, nine and ten-speed automatics fill in the gaps.
For the holdouts, what keeps the row-your-own fires burning?
I’m a #savethemanuals sucker. My daily driver and only car is a damn Miata Club six-speed, but I’m getting married in a couple of months and my fiancée is not so stubborn. I’ve taught her how to drive stick, and she’s pretty good at it, but it’s not her thing. Driving really isn’t her thing, in fact. She doesn’t now have a car. When she used to live in a part of the country where you need a car, she had some plain Kia or whatever. Her only strong preference is for smaller cars over larger ones, as we live in a dense urban area.
Let’s say for argument’s sake I knock her up in the next 12-18 months. We’ll be in the market for another car. I wouldn’t be the primary driver, but I’d drive it often enough. She wouldn’t mind if it’s “fun and nice.”
I would keep buying stick shifts until they stop selling them, and I’d resent any car if I could have in a stick yet passed on the option in favor of a CVT. Still, I understand that’s not how the world works. I think the best compromise, then, is to get a car that isn’t available with a manual transmission.
Because we haven’t yet adopted a Utopian work calendar, it’s now the day before the weekend and time for some unusual automotive news.
While there hasn’t been any reports of people or cars being crushed by colorful fall foliage, Mother Nature has been a bad girl, as animals are conspiring to destroy our vehicles through theft or by making a very distracting corpse. Meanwhile, a shrinking number of vehicles are coming from the factory with the best anti-carjacking device ever made.
I seem to find myself in an endless car-buying cycle of “I’ll finally be content if I buy X car”; get said car, get a year into ownership and dammit — I want a different car! Buyers remorse at its finest.
I don’t know what it is when it comes to cars, but I seem to have this blind spot for knowing what the heck I really want in the car, unlike everything else in life. Sigh.
The Chevrolet Cruze Diesel returns in 2017, packing a smaller oil-burning four-cylinder and more torque than the first-generation model, but there’s another major change from its predecessor.
The dwindling supply of new vehicles offering a row-your-own driving experience spurs fewer tears than before, but the three-pedal setup isn’t dead yet.
In fact, offering a manual transmission is still worthy of boasting about through official channels. As it rolls out the 2017 A4, Audi wants you to know there’ll be an option to ditch the PRNDL pattern on all-wheel-drive models, allowing spirited motorists the increasingly rare opportunity to take full control of their gear changes.
Oh, and those other guys? Yeah, they don’t offer one. Audi made sure to remind us of that.
Are you sure you want to save the manuals?
In theory, of course, you want to save the manual transmission. You enjoy driving. You enjoy enhancing the man-machine connection by synchronizing movements between your left foot, right hand, and right foot. You value the art of a perfectly timed shift, of properly holding a gear through a corner when even the most intelligent automatic would upshift. You know the corner. You know driving. You know how to get the best out of a Ford Fiesta ST half an hour before sunrise on Italy’s Stelvio Pass, even though you’ve never set foot outside Iowa, even though you drive a RAV4 Hybrid.
“What? I would’ve gotten a manual if Toyota offered one,” thou doth protest too much.
As we approach greater degrees of autonomous driving, as roads fill up and speed limits are not altered to reflect our vehicles’ huge improvements in stopping ability and safety, saving the manuals sounds like a noble campaign. Preserve that last shred of pure driving already forsaken by Ferrari, by performance-oriented Porsches, by the general populace that believes their right hands are better off holding a skinny cinnamon dolce latte than a leather-wrapped shifter.
But I’m driving proof, a $9,995* 2016 Chevrolet Spark, that we shouldn’t paint with such a broad #SaveTheManuals brush. We should save some of the manuals, but certainly not all of them.
A sign of our automated times, it looks like the manual transmission’s days could be numbered in the Corolla lineup.
There’s been plenty of digital ink spilled over the forthcoming JL Wrangler, due out in 2018. Jeep is a huge cash cow for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, so the pressure is on to design a Wrangler which appeals to the general public and placates the hordes of rabid Jeep fans — who are known to gather torches and pitchforks at the mere suggestion of even the slightest design change.
A diesel option has been widely speculated, along with the chance of a turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant, both hooked to eight-speed automatics. Now, Andrew Collins over at the Truck Yeah arm of Jalopnik speculates the new JL could be offered solely as an automatic.
I am anticipating that my 1997 Subaru Legacy wagon, with 210,000+ miles on the clock, will need replacing soon. I’m lucky in that my wagon is a five-speed manual with the 2.2-liter EJ motor, so has been fairly bulletproof. In the last 19 years, it has needed only minimal work besides regular maintenance and wear items (brakes, clutch, tires), aside from the occasional axle or other random parts (i.e. alternator). I’ve been looking around at affordable commuter 5-door hatchbacks (Mazda3, Impreza, Focus, etc.) as it must fit multiple kids, sports gear, and I need a daily driver for work (~45 miles round trip).
Here’s my question: I would like something a little sporty as more than half of my commute is on fun twisty back roads. I keep going back and forth on whether or not to go for a naturally aspirated or turbo engine, followed by trying to decide between auto or manual. I feel like my five-speed-manual Subaru skewed my perception to believe a naturally aspirated engine and manual transmission is a much more sturdy, robust and reliable setup that’s less prone to breaking and needing repairs (fewer parts to fail) than a turbo and/or automatic.
Am I wrong?
Quality of life is about making the best of your surroundings. There isn’t a car on the market today that reflects that ethos more than the Honda Accord.
After years of growing to make room for smaller models in the lineup, the Accord — which has gathered accolades as the most reliable choice in the family car segment for decades — has skipped having a midlife crisis, and is still playing like a kid. It would be easy to say the Accord has always been a favorite for us, but as the competition improves, we wanted to come back and give the Accord another go.
Here’s what we learned after several days of puttering around southern California in the Accord Sport, the value-priced model that hits the sweet spot of what you have and what you want.
It’s had a few good days recently, but there’s no doubt the manual transmission is a patient that’s rapidly slipping away.
BMW just did its part to hasten the demise by getting rid of the stick shift option in next year’s M5 and M6, according to comments made to Car and Driver by BMW M boss Frank van Meel.
Soon, only two pedals will sprout from the firewall of the famed performance midsizers. But don’t blame the automaker. They’re just responding to consumer demand, or lack thereof.
UPDATE: According to commenter krhodes1 and Facebook commenter Michael Smith, the 228i manual (order code 162A) is still available and there is a bug in the configurator. Which reminds me, you should like The Truth About Cars on Facebook.
Jalopnik is reporting that a number of BMW models — namely the 228i, 328i, and 428i — have lost their manual options for 2016. BMW’s online configurator for the 2016 model year shows the cars as automatic-only options, effectively making the manual transmission a premium option by forcing manual-loving customers into higher trims.
Does this mean the end of the manual transmission as we know it? Probably not. (Yet.)
BMW may be coy about it, but there’s no denying that manual transmissions are dying a fairly ignominious death in most cars. It’s a shame. Manuals are more often found as slushboxes in econo-drones with cloth everything paired to a remedial engine.
Cheap manual transmissions aren’t worth saving. In 20 years, when everything except your mountain bike comes with an automatic transmission, will you look fondly on the Chevy Cobalt’s 5-speed guessing game? Probably not.
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